What does it mean to be a bird in a world massively altered by human actions? This White-tailed Kite (Elanus leucurus), a beautiful raptor, is finding it out while hovering above Baylands Park near Palo Alto, California.
Humans have made not only the Dodo, but dozens of bird species, vanish from Earth in the past decades, through hunting, habitat destruction and the spread of cats, rats and dogs with the help of ships. Globally, 1300 out of a total of 10,000 bird species are seriously in decline. Other birds have learned to live with humans and profit from their presence.
European swifts, for example, use buildings as surrogate cliffs for breeding. White storks exclusively breed on roofs, and populations of European cranes have grown in recent years partly because they started to feed on left-over corn grains on open fields - a sort of power snack. Migratory birds often target big cities in order to enjoy a warm updraft from the heat stored in the stones.
This White-tailed Kite isn't really in love with humans like the stork but prefers some distance. By 1940, the species was close to extinction in California due to hunting and egg-collection. Since then populations have bounced back and the Kite is now found in many habitats, including the salt marshes - or what's left of them - along San Francisco Bay. Like so many habitats, the salt marshes are under immense pressure from human use. Large areas have been covered with landfills, power lines are cutting right through the marshes and in this particular spot, the heart of the Silicon Valley, IT companies are growing massively and with them their need for space.
This image looks almost idyllic - but the reality for billions of Anthropocene birds around the planet is all but idyllic.
This is the continuation of a 10-part series where renowned journalist, author and biologist Christian Schwägerl discusses the many ramifications of the concept of the “Anthropocene”.
Read the whole Anthropo-scene series.
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